Not your average defending champs: Stratford Baseball is hungry for a repeat

Published: Apr. 26, 2021 at 10:08 PM CDT
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STRATFORD, Wis. (WSAW) -It’s been 22 months since the defending Division Three baseball champions took the diamond.

That changes tomorrow for Stratford when they open 2021 against Rib Lake.

“They’re so excited to get back out here,” says head coach Marshall Lehman. “They know that we won the championship two years ago, and they want that chance to do it, and to show that it wasn’t a fluke, just a one-year thing.”

With the year off, this is not your average title defending team. The Tigers return just two starters from 2019: Catcher Colton Schillinger and utility man Riley Bauman.

“I feel like I’ve got to be an example, because I was one of the only ones who was here (two years) ago,” says Bauman.

“Well, that holds Riley and I very accountable for everything we do,” Schillinger says. “Show the younger kids, underclassman, and some of the other seniors like what we have to do to get back to Fox Valley.”

A championship banner hangs on the left field wall to remind the Tigers what they accomplished two years ago. As if repeating wasn’t enough motivation, Baseball Wisconsin ranked Stratford #18 in their D-3 preseason baseball rankings.

Is that a chip on this team’s shoulder? You bet.

“To us that’s like a big kick in the back, kick us while we’re doing and everything,” Schillinger says. “But I think we have a really good team this year.”

“(I) Saw Edgar at second (Edgar is ranked #2 in Division Four) and a couple of other teams that I thought we could compete with,” says senior pitcher and outfielder Kale Weisenberger.

By and large, it’s a younger group, and Lehman, who won the title in his first year as a head coach in 2019, has pretty clear expectations.

“Be ready to go by the time we hit the end of May, and that’s our goal.”

But this team does still have championship DNA running through it, and they’re hungry to recapture that feeling.

“When you’re in the big moments, you’ve just got to take a breath and realize that you’ve got to act like you’ve been there before,” Bauman says.

“The excitement of actually winning it and being there with some of your best friends, and some people that you’ve been playing baseball with your whole life even, I just can’t explain that moment half the time,” says Schillinger.

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